The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2015

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34  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2015 OVER THE TABLE W hen Ian White was given the opportunity to partner with Whole Foods Market on a special project for their "Holiday Top 10 Wines," he reached out to his friend, John Truchard. "John had some fantastic grapes," explains White, "and Doug Bell and Devon Broglie [of Whole Foods] told us what they were looking for and what the consumers were looking for, and John and I were able to make it happen. That experience was the impetus for John and I to start J.W. Thomas Group." Now, with Steve Smith as a third partner, JWT's portfolio includes four brands: Ha¯ naiali'i, Verse & Chorus, Weather, Brett Dennen. One project— Ha¯ naiali'i, named after Amy Ha¯ naialii Gilliom, the Hawaiian singer/songwriter who partnered with White to make the wine—recently won Double Gold and Best in Class at the West Coast Wine Competition and sold out within months of its first vintage. Made by winemaker Jeff Kandarian, Ha¯ naiali'i offers generous red berry aromas and spice and is round and juicy on the palate—it's a blend is 98% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc from Davidson Ranch in St. Helena, CA. The Napa Valley vineyard is adjacent to the Spring Mountain AVA and sees cooler air influence coming off of the Mayacamas. White's company is going into its third year as a partner with Whole Foods Market and demand for Ha¯ naiali'i, which is up to 2,000 cases, is on the rise. One of the most fascinating encounters of the year to date came about at Fine & Rare, a San Francisco restaurant co-owned by vintner Ted Wilson. Wilson, who recently released the 2012 vintage of his family wine label, Wilson & Wilson—a dazzling, lush, dark-berried, Old World–style Napa Cabernet made by Alan Viader—hosted Hiedrun Meadery at his restaurant back in October. The event promised a truly unique experience, and it delivered on that promise. Heidrun Meadery is producing the only mead wines made in the United States by the méthode champenoise. At least, that's what Carly Sheriff, Sales Director for the winery says, and I'm inclined to believe her. Under the direction of Gordon Hull, Heidrun produces 10–12 varietals based solely on single-varietal honey. "We start with single-varietal honey, blended with four parts water to create a juice that is like must—it's sweet," explains Sheriff. To eradicate wild yeasts, "we do a quick 15-minute kettle boil, which also helps remove some of the wax and pollen out of the raw honey, effectively clarifying and stabilizing it. And we don't have to filter or add sulfites." Next, the mead is inoculated with Champagne yeast in tank. From there, a ten-day primary ferment, then a two-month secondary ferment in bottle with early disgorgement and no sur lie aging or dosage, which could introduce new, unwanted flavors. Heidrun produces roughly 1,200 cases annually, available for on- and off-premise, mostly in California. At the Fine & Rare event, four varietals— Alpha and Clover Blossom, Cali Orange Blossom, Hawaiian Macadamia Nut and Oregon Radish Blossom—were paired with a meal by Executive Chef and co-owner Scott Peterson. "The Radish Blossom, which is our driest mead, is slightly spicy, kind of earthy with some ginger and pine character and nice acidity, was the group favorite, paired with whole smoked trout. It was divine," said Sheriff. by Jonathan Cristaldi Oregon Radish Blossom—were paired with a meal by Executive Peterson. "The Radish Blossom, slightly spicy, kind of earthy with some ginger and pine character and nice acidity, was the group smoked trout. It was divine," Hawaiian Rock Star, Fine & Rare, Méthode Champenoise Mead Heidrun's Point Reyes Wild Flower Mead is an "estate" mead from mono-floral honey (i.e., single-varietal honey, rather than honey made from an array of wildflowers). PHOTO: KAREN LUK PHOTO COURTESY OF HEIDRUN MEADERY THE SPOTLIGHT IS ON HANAIALI'I, WILSON & WILSON AND HEIDRUN MEADERY

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